5 ‘Must-Do’ Home Resolutions for January
Happy New Year! January is the month to take stock and plan ahead. That’s why these five “must-do” projects for January include everything from adopting some home-focused resolutions to storing holiday decorations and getting snow-ready.
1. Make ‘energy savings’ a resolution to keep
This year, as you make your New Year’s resolution to spend less, go on a diet, join a gym, learn a new skill or perhaps find more time for yourself, consider adding another goal for 2013 — putting your house on an energy diet.
Just like taxes and death, you can be sure that energy and utility costs will continue to take a bite out of your home operating budget. How big of a bite is within your control. That’s why it pays to do everything you can to keep your home as trim and fit as possible. After all, sometimes even a seemingly modest change in your home (or change in your personal habits) can make a dramatic difference over time.
For example, there’s been plenty written about energy-efficient light bulbs, but have you put that information into practice? If not, make it a goal this year. If every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star-certified variety, we would conserve enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year (equivalent to the amount produced by about 800,000 cars), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
RELATED: How To Hack Your Electric Bill
And if you’ve turned a deaf ear to that dripping faucet or runny toilet, you can be sure that your water company hasn’t. If you know that there’s a leak, fix it. It may require something as simple as tightening a valve or replacing a worn washer or ineffective flapper, all simple repairs you can take care of yourself. If the leak requires replacing the faucet or toilet altogether, call in a professional and choose a fixture bearing the WaterSense label. And the next time you flush, consider this: If everyone in the U.S. flushed the toilet just one time less per day, we could save the equivalent of a lake full of water about 1 square mile and 4 feet deep every day.
Looking for more ways to conserve and save this year? Seal those drafts, make sure your home is well-insulated, install low-flow shower heads and change furnace filters.
2. Pack up the holiday decorations
As fun as it is to unearth boxes of holiday decorations in November, there is nothing enjoyable about packing them all away again in January. Big-box stores will be happy to sell you bins and containers geared specifically toward holiday-related storage, but with a little planning and ingenuity, you can create your own DIY solutions that will work just as well. A piece of cardboard with slots at both ends is ideal for wrapping string lights, while those inexpensive, 6-ounce plastic party cups are the perfect individual holders for fragile ornaments. And if you have a real tree, consider bringing it to a treecycling location, where it will be chipped into mulch for beneficial use.
3. Get snow-ready
Take time now to make sure you are prepared for snow. Snow shovels, snow blowers, salt or sand should all be at the ready. If you haven’t fired up your snow blower since last winter, you might want to do so now.
Consider some routine maintenance like changing the oil; replacing frayed or cracked belts; tightening nuts, bolts, and screws; and lubricating drive and chassis. Also, watch for the formation of icicles along the eaves as snow begins to melt. They can create ice dams and serious damage to the roof if left unattended. A roof rake is a great way to pull the snow from the eaves to lessen the problem.
4. Employ some countertop TLC
Perhaps never before have there been so many enticing countertop options to fit every budget, decor and culinary need. But all countertops are not created equal. So what’s the best way to keep yours in peak condition? You can start with some pretty basic “do’s and don’ts,” such as cleaning often with a sponge or soft cloth and mild, non-abrasive detergent, or by practicing caution when using sharp knives and hot cookware. If you have granite or marble, be sure to use a good sealer, which will help prolong the life of the stone and provide a barrier of protection against staining. Wood countertops should be rubbed with tung, linseed or mineral oil anywhere from monthly to quarterly, depending on usage. The same mineral oil can be applied to soapstone to provide a protective coat and rich, dark color. For stained laminate, try a homemade paste of baking soda and water. For tips on caring for concrete, stainless steel, quartz, solid surfaces and ceramic tile, visit Countertop Care 101.
5. Make a better fire
While many of today’s homeowners opt for the convenience of a gas fireplace, the traditionalists among us may always prefer the smokey smell, crackling sound and tactile ritual of fire building. While there is an art to making a fire, it all begins with the right choice of wood. Every species has its own set of burning characteristics. Some species — oak, for example — offer a very slow burn and hot fire, while other species like fir provide medium heat with less ash. You’ll also want to make sure the wood you use is properly seasoned and stored in a well-ventilated outdoor area, protected from the elements.
What 2018 Home Resolutions have you made? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Twelve Days of Holiday Safety Tips
Tips from the Red Cross
Having a busy time getting ready for the holidays? While you are shopping, baking, gift wrapping, decorating and going to parties, the American Red Cross has holiday safety tips to help keep the season safe, happy and bright.
• Prepare your vehicle for traveling to grandmother’s house. Build an emergency kit and include items such as blankets or sleeping bags, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, compass and road maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, extra clothing, flares, and a tow rope.
RELATED: How To Winterize Your Car
• Drive your sleigh and reindeer safely. Avoid driving in a storm. If you must travel, let someone know where you are going, the route you’re taking to get there, and when you expect to arrive. If the car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along their predetermined route.
• Help prevent the spread of the flu. Stay home if you’re sick. Wash hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. Learn more about preventing the spread of the flu.
• Follow Santa’s fashion lead – dress in layers. When it’s cold outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
• Use a Red Cross-trained babysitter when attending holiday festivities. Red Cross-certified babysitters learn to administer basic first aid; properly hold and feed a child; take emergency action when needed and monitor safe play. Some may be certified in Infant and Child CPR.
• Avoid danger while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Be a lifesaver during the holidays. The Red Cross recommends at least one person in every household should take first aid and CPR/AED training.
• Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. Buckle up, slow down, don’t drive impaired. If you plan on drinking, designate a driver who won’t drink.
• When the weather outside is frightful, heat your home safely. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms.
• Cut down on your heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned and change the filters. Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking the heat vents. Close off any rooms not in use and turn off the heat in those rooms. Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.
• Home for the holidays? Travel safely. Check the air pressure in your tires and make sure you have windshield fluid. Be well rested and alert. Give your full attention to the road – avoid distractions such as cell phones. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.
• (Bonus!) Resolve to Be Red Cross Ready in the New Year. Get ready now in case you or a member of your household faces an emergency in 2015. Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.
Have holiday safety tips to add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or Instagram Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Why the Holidays Are A Great Time to Sell Your Home
When it comes to real estate, many believe the ideal time to sell your home often falls in the spring months. After all, people often hunker down during the winter or are too busy with the holidays to think about purchasing a new home. Not to mention that people like to start shopping in the spring to make sure they are settled in their home before the start of a new school year.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials: The Ultimate Guide
But putting your house up for sale around the holidays has its benefits. Sure, you may not get into a bidding war, but you are going to deal with serious buyers who are ready to pull the trigger.
Consider these major benefits to selling your home this holiday season:
1. There’s Less Inventory
Conventional wisdom says people should wait until the spring to get the most from a home sale. But studies have shown that homes listed around the holidays can not only command more money, but can also sell quicker than ones listed in the spring.
One of the reasons is there is less competition during the holidays. For a multitude of reasons people won’t put their houses up for sale when the holidays are coming up, and so the ones shopping aren’t going to have dozens of houses to choose from. In the spring, inventory usually picks up, and price wars break out in coveted neighborhoods. But during the holidays, there will be limited choices which means a homeowner can have a higher asking price.
2. Buyers Are More Serious
Anyone who is shopping for a new home around Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s is undoubtedly going to be a serious buyer. While hitting open houses is a favorite pastime for many Americans, they aren’t going to spend their precious time around the holidays seeing how the other half lives. In the spring, when open houses are a regular occurrence, people may check out homes without a clear plan to buy.
If your house is up for sale in the winter and someone is looking at it, chances are that person is serious and is ready to pull the trigger. That can often result in a quicker sales process.
3. You Can Make the Home Warm and Cozy
The holidays are often a time when people gather around fireplaces, have hot chocolate and make nice smelling cakes and pies. For homeowners who put their house up for sale during the winter months, they can stage their house to give off the comfy and homey vibe that appeals to many home buyers. Some people may argue that showing a house in the winter is hard to do because there’s snow on the ground, the house is drafty and the curb appeal is lacking. But keeping the heat up, having a pie baking in the oven to give off a pleasant smell and keeping the sidewalk and driveway clear of snow and ice can boost a home’s appeal.
Not to mention that buyers tend to be more emotional during the holidays and will make decisions based on the feeling a house conjures up. During the spring there is a lot more foot traffic in homes that are up for sale. Buyers may not be able to do a thorough walk-through, may get frustrated because of the number of people looking at it and can leave with a bad feeling about the home.
4. Timing Is Perfect for Transfers
The end of the year is typically the time when people get notified that they will be moving because of a job transfer. Those people are going to need a house sooner rather than later, and as a result will be hunting for a new home during the holidays. These buyers can’t wait for the spring, which is why listing during the holidays can get the home sold and sold quickly.
5. Your Neighborhood May Look More Appealing
One of the staples of the holiday months, particularly Christmas, is that many people adorn their homes with festive lights and decorations. That is also true of local communities where lit-up snowflakes and wreaths can be found on lamp poles and up and down the main streets. People purchasing a home during that time may see the neighborhood in a different light and may be more willing to consider an area that they may have been on the fence about.
6. End-of-Year Tax Breaks
Reducing the tax bill is not the main reason buyers purchase a new home, but it could be the reason serious buyers make a move during the holidays. That’s because if the home sale closes before Dec. 31, buyers can deduct the mortgage interest, property taxes and interest costs of the loan. The tax deductions can be significant and could prompt a home buyer to move during the holidays instead of waiting until the spring.
Nobody wants their home to languish on the market nor do they want to have to lower the price they are asking for. And while many fear that will happen if they list their home during the holidays, often that isn’t the case.
Are you planning on selling your home? Contact us to find out why selling your home during the holiday season can mean less competition, more serious buyers and a quicker sale.
How to Keep Your Home Cool in Summer Without AC
Ah, air conditioning. During the dog days of summer it’s easy to deem air conditioning as one of humankind’s greatest inventions. Unfortunately, it just so happens to be an energy-intensive one, which can lead to high energy bills. What’s more, many older homes don’t have central air installed, especially in more temperate regions. This may be fine when the thermostat only clocks in at 60, but it can be painful when it soars into the 90s or above.
Thankfully, there are plenty of energy-efficient ways to keep your home cool in the summertime without the help of AC.
Let’s take a look at just a few…
1. Shading Your Windows
One of the best things you can do to keep your house cool without even thinking about AC is shading your windows. There are a number of ways to do this.
Roof overhangs and awnings. A roof overhang is a type of roof that extends further than a typical roof, providing shade for the part of the house it covers. An awning provides a similar function, and can be added to any window, whether on the first floor or second, even after a roof has been installed. For maximum cooling, you’ll want to invest in protecting your western and southern windows from light, as this is where they’ll prove most necessary and effective. However, if you’d like to benefit from passive warming in the winter, overhangs and awnings are likely too permanent of a solution. Instead, you’d be better shading your windows with one of the removable and retractable options below.
Automated blinds. A good pair of thick blinds can do wonders when it comes to keeping your house cool, especially if you keep them closed during the warmest parts of the day. Due to their construction, honeycomb blinds in particular can be effective at absorbing heat, but any thick blind will do. An automated pair of blinds that open and close on a schedule and that can be controlled from afar can help you maximize cooling throughout the day when you’re gone. Whatever kind of blinds you choose, these are a good solution for southern facing windows since they can be raised in the winter when you might need warmth.
Other window treatment options. Of course, there are many other kinds of window treatments that are great at blocking out light. Shades are particularly effective if mounted closest to the window to reduce heat gain. Medium-colored drapes with a plastic backing can reduce solar gain by as much as 33%. Pro tip: dip your drapes in water or wash them the night before and let them dry as they hang for even more cooling. Tightly woven bamboo screens, whether placed inside or outside of a window, can also prevent as much as 80% of solar heat from passing through the window.
Trees. Planting trees around your house — but not so close that they become a fire hazard — is a beautiful and natural way to shade your windows. Again, don’t do this on the south facing side if you’d like passive heat in the winter. Opt for a variety that’s known for its shading, like a species of maple or river birch.
RELATED: How to Hack Your Electric Bill
2. Insulate Your Home Well
We often think of insulation when it comes to keeping our houses warm, but it’s just as important in keeping the house cool. You’ll want to insulate ducts to prevent any leakage, as well as your attic and walls. Spray foam, rigid foam boards, and batt insulation are all effective at regulating your house’s temperature.
RELATED: Green Your Home
On a similar note, if you are currently designing or remodeling your home, now is the time to choose materials that have a high thermal mass, which means that they store heat. Such materials include brick, cement, rammed earth, stone, and ceramic tiles. If you’ve got a finished home, even covering a wall that receives a large amount of sunlight with a material like brick can help to absorb heat.
3. Install and Use Fans Strategically
Fans are an effective and cheap way to move air around your home, but that won’t do you much good if you’re just circulating hot air. Placing a fan in a window will allow you to suck cool air in at night. In corner rooms, placing another fan in the opposite direction will pull hot air out of your house, while that cooler air is sucked in through the opposite window.
Ceiling fans placed throughout the house can work great, especially if they’re made to spin counterclockwise to create a wind-chill breeze effect. And if your house has a cool basement, a ventilator fan will push that cold air up into your house.
4. Say Goodbye to Incandescent Lights
Incandescent lights are known for being energy inefficient, but did you know how they waste so much energy? By giving off heat, of course! In fact, they lose about 90% of their energy that way. Opting for more energy efficient choices like compact fluorescent bulbs for lamps and overhead lighting and LED bulbs for under cabinet kitchen lighting will save you on your lighting bills and keep your house cool at the same time.
As you can see, there are many excellent, energy efficient ways to keep your house cool without even having to glance at the price tag on an air conditioning unit. Of course, your best strategy is to use a combination of these techniques together for maximum effectiveness. So ditch the ice pack this summer, and make your house the coolest on the block.
Do you have tips to add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds or on Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
27 New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners
Heading into a new year, we feel an obligation to make resolutions.
Personal resolutions can be motivating, exciting or just plain silly. This year I will… eat healthier, save money, run the Long Branch 5K, learn to surf in Monmouth Beach, do the Asbury Park Polar Bear Plunge.
As a homeowner, resolutions can also be empowering. Some are mission-critical for a solid financial year, others maybe fall in the wish list.
Need ideas? This list should get you started:
1. “Lose weight.”
Losing the weight of excess possessions save time (you know, like looking everywhere for your shoes in a cluttered bedroom), money (where did I put that bill?) and your mind (psychologists agree that clutter and stress go hand-in-hand).
2. Get organized.
The logical next step to decluttering is to find a logical place for what’s left.
Need inspiration? Walk through a home storage store or get yourself on Pinterest for some seriously clever organizational ideas.
3. Save energy.
Saving energy is good for the planet and it’s also great for your pocketbook. EnergyStar appliances are just the start.
• LED bulbs are much more efficient and now come in warmer tones and dimmable options for a more homey feel. Use a lighting calculator to measure energy and cost savings.
• Water heaters expend energy storing hot water. The Department of Energy says tankless water heaters are 8 percent to 34 percent more energy efficient than standard water heaters, depending on usage.
• Going solar no longer has to be ugly roof additions. Have you seen the new Tesla solar tiles?
Saving on energy can even have some great tax implications! Check out our article on the best energy enhancements for optimal tax write-offs.
4. Build green.
Going green is more than energy usage. It’s also about sustainability and healthful choices in finishes.
• Change out laminates and carpets for natural hard surfaces.
• Remove asbestos (with a professional).
• Use sustainable and recycled materials like bamboo, cork and Vetrazzo.
• Need to paint? Go with a low- or no-VOC non-toxic paint.
• If you’re texturizing a wall, try Earth plaster instead of gypsum.
5. Get healthy.
Create a workout space, so there’s no excuse when the weather turns. If you’re looking to move, check out neighborhoods with nearby trails, fitness centers and amenities.
6. Just fix it.
You’ve walked by that broken switch plate how many times?
Go through the house like a home inspector and create a checklist of repairs that need to be done. When it comes time to sell and appraise your house, you’ll be glad these were done.
7. Set yourself (debt) free.
Those who carry debt and struggle to pay it off are twice as likely to develop mental health problems, according to a study by John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham.
Paying off debt sets you free in so many ways, plus it’s great for your credit score. Think of all the things you could do in the future with the money you save on payments and interest (maybe even pay off your home early — see #20).
8. Remodel right.
Is it time to update a dated bathroom? Replace the garage door?
If you’re wondering what improvements will lead to a better return on investment when you sell, check out our article on which home renovations offer the greatest return on investment. Our Agent’s can also tell you what improvements are best for your neighborhood and house type.
9. Maximize your mortgage.
A recent Zillow study showed that Americans spent more time researching a car purchase than their home loan. Since the Fed announced that it’s planning three rate hikes in 2017, it’s wise to refi sooner than later.
Have you reached the loan-to-value needed to remove your mortgage insurance? Make an appointment to talk to a lender for a mortgage checkup.
10. Learn to DIY.
The more minor fixes (and if you’re really skilled, major fixes) you can do yourself, the more money you save.
11. Plan to maintain.
Create a maintenance calendar to remember those routine maintenance tasks, such as replacing furnace air filters, changing smoke detector batteries and winterizing sprinklers.
Whether it’s a paper calendar or your iCal on your phone, plan out scheduled maintenance so you won’t hear that relentless beeping of the smoke detector in the middle of the night — or run out of propane before the steaks are done (tragedy!).
Is this the year to buy a rental property? Or a vacation home?
This will really require you to understand your financial situation, so talk to your financial advisor and an Agent who understands investment properties.
13. Take an inventory.
That new flat screen television and 360 viewer you got for Christmas are going to need coverage. If disaster happens, do you really know what’s in your house?
14. Do the double check.
The Insurance Information Institute says a standard policy covers the structure and possessions against fire, hurricanes, wind, hail, lightning, theft and vandalism.
Most other disasters are add-ons. Talk to your insurance agent and make sure you have not only enough property coverage but also enough liability coverage.
15. Get a “CLUE”.
Your homeowners’ insurance premiums are dependent on a number of factors, such as credit score and the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report of claim history.
You can request a free report from LexisNexis.
16. Make your neighborhood better.
Get involved with your local HOA, neighborhood watch or community events. The first step to a better neighborhood is your personal involvement.
For news, information about issues that effect your community and to keep in touch with your neighbors; you can also join the Community Facebook Pages and Group we maintain. Like the Bradley Beach, New Jersey Facebook Page or join the Groups for Bradley Beach, NJ Residents, Ocean Township, NJ Residents or our Jersey Shore and Monmouth County Lifestyle Group.
17. Save water.
Dry climate areas struggle for water in dense population centers. Watering restrictions can turn your grass brown and overuse can cost you with tiered billing. Even the New Jersey climates experience seasonal droughts or below average reservoir levels.
Xeriscape what you can outside and look for indoor appliances that use less water. If you live in a state with conservation legislation, get those regulators on your shower heads and hoses.
18. Get dirty.
Landscaping is essential to curb appeal. So this year, really plan to keep up with it or think about going to a more easy-care style.
Out back, consider a garden to save money on better produce. Get a composter for garden and food waste.
19. Plan for emergencies.
Natural disasters and social disruptions are unwanted, but they happen. To be ready, you actually need to prepare!
Do you have a family evacuation plan? Emergency supplies? Go to ready.gov for a ton of ideas on prevention and disaster preparedness.
20. Get smart.
Smart home features make your home more efficient and easy to use, even remotely. Look for these to be the “wow” factor that could make your house stand out. Who doesn’t love Alexa-enabled appliances?
21. Make extra mortgage payments.
You can take thousands of dollars and years off your mortgage by putting an extra amount towards the principal each month. For a $400,000 at 4.25 percent interest with 25 of its 30 years left, you could save $21,107 and take two years off by paying an extra $100 per month.
RELATED: How To Pay Your Mortgage Off Early
What could you save? Try Bankrate’s handy extra payment calculator.
22. Pay off your second mortgage.
Whether it’s a one- or multiple-year plan, it won’t happen if you don’t budget for it.
23. Scrutinize your property tax.
If you live in an area where your home value has dropped since the last assessment, you need to really look at that bill.
Is the assessment correct? Is it going up faster than the sale prices of comparable homes? You can appeal via your local appraisal review board.
24. Optimize your withholding.
If you’re a first-time homeowner, you’re going to enjoy those new deductions. Be sure to talk to your tax advisor about adjusting your paycheck withholding accordingly (unless you like Uncle Sam making money off your income instead of you!).
25. Pay bills, especially your mortgage, on time.
It goes a long way to improving your credit. “The longer bills are paid on time, the higher the FICO Score should rise,” says myFICO. “That’s because as recent “good payment” patterns appear on a credit report, the impact of past credit problems on a FICO Score fade.”
26. Cook dinner.
You know that fabulous kitchen you had to have when you bought your home? Use it!
The USDA’s 2016-17 Food Price Outlook shows the price of groceries decreased in 2016, with a less than 1.5 percent increase in 2017, but restaurants will continue to climb beyond 2016’s 2.4 percent increase.
You’ll also eat healthier at home by controlling what goes into your body. If you own a home with a less-than-stellar kitchen, cooking will probably motivate you to make some appliance and feature upgrades that will pay off when you sell.
27. Get hip.
Dated cabinets and 1980s fixtures don’t help your resale value. Evaluate your style and start looking at upcoming (not past) trends.
Although we’re still in a “sellers’ market” that will likely change in the next few years. A modern home (unless it’s a historic property) is simply more appealing and makes the buyer feel like it’s move-in ready.
Your house is your biggest asset. While not all of these resolutions are essential, aim to start out by focusing on your mortgage and personal finances. What do you have to add? Where might you start? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
Here’s to a healthier, happier and successful New Year!
How to Decorate for the Holidays When Your Home Is for Sale
Some folks think they have to stifle the spirit and eschew traditions entirely if their house is on the market in November and December. Not true. You can celebrate the season and still make your home attractive to potential buyers. Here’s how.
1. Clean and declutter before you decorate. If your house is already full of knickknacks and furniture, piling on the holiday decor and plopping a blinking, tinsel-laden tree in the middle is a sure way to turn a potential buyer into Scrooge. The cardinal rules of home staging apply, no matter when you list your home. So give your house a good, deep clean and pack up those everyday tchotchkes before you haul out the holiday bins.
2. Less is more. Ornaments stuffed into every nook, twinkle lights dripping from walls and gutters, and that rooftop inflatable Santa may seem bright and festive to you but are likely to turn off, not dazzle, your buyers.
You want them to be impressed with your house, not distracted by decorations. So keep it simple this year. If minimizing the “ho ho ho” cramps your style, just remind yourself that you can go all-out next year in your new home.
3. Treat all the senses. Wintery, holiday scents are welcoming, but use them judiciously and avoid the cloying and artificial.Try a nice basket of scented pinecones, simmer cinnamon on the stovetop or simply allow the subtle and fresh smell of a fir wreath to tantalize and mesmerize.
That being said, no matter how many cookies you bake, nothing will hide the smell of kitty litter or wet dog. So refer to tip No. 1 — deep clean and then use scent to enhance the cozy vibe.
4. Class, not clash. For the best impression, make sure your holiday decor complements your existing color palette. For example, if your home is done up in warm or earth tones, lean toward golds, forest greens and deep reds. If your palette is cooler, use silvers, blues and whites to make your home sparkle.
If your usual decorations don’t fit the bill, consider purchasing some new ones just for the listing.
5. Decorate to accentuate. Show off your home’s selling points by decorating strategically. Does your home have a beautiful archway? Hang a single shiny ornament to draw the eye. Funky-cool beehive fireplace? Go easy on the stockings and give the mantel some breathing room. Curved staircase? String garlands up the railing. Stunning view? Place a menorah or simple evergreen bough across the sill and don’t hide that money maker behind lights and fake snowflakes.
6. Keep it neutral. Any time of year, religious decorations are a sticky topic, and never more so than during the holidays. And the fact is, you do want to sell your home and not turn off potential buyers. Certainly, display decorations that make the season meaningful to you but consider saving the oversize and overt displays to adorn your new home next year.
RELATED: The Ultimate Home Sellers Guide
7. Trim down the Tannenbaum. Traditionally, the Christmas tree is afforded a place of honor in the home. However, space sells and, most likely, that tree will be occupying prime interior real estate. Don’t worry; you don’t have to do without it. Simply make sure your tree has the right proportions rather than being the elephant in the room.
Are you a home seller with holiday decorating tips? Are you currently house hunting and have been turned off by holiday décor? Sound off on our Facebook Page, on our Twitter feed or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox.
11 Best Tech Gadgets For Your Home
These awesome upgrades will transform your house into a futuristic smart home.
In this Jetsons world we’re living in, everything is getting smarter—our phones, our cars and now, thanks to a bunch of new technology, even our homes. With a few simple upgrades, you can have on-demand music in any room of the house, control your lights and thermostat remotely, and even let someone in while you’re out running errands. In some cases, your house can even learn your habits and preferences.
It’s like having your own virtual butler, only without the snootiness. From Wi-Fi enabled slow cookers to intuitive lighting, here are the 10 best tech gadgets to upgrade your home.
1. WeMo Switch Electronics Control
Nothing’s worse than getting to work and wondering whether you remembered to turn off the coffeemaker. Do you rush back home and check on it or do you just wait until you hear the sirens? With WeMo, a Wi-Fi-enabled plug-in device that works with any electronic device, you don’t have to do either. You can turn everything off or on simply by using the WeMo app on your phone. You can even pair it with Amazon Echo’s Alexa to make it hands-free, which means you can turn off that coffeemaker while driving.
WeMo switch, $40, Amazon.com
2. Ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat
Easily the most efficient way to heat and cool your house, the Ecobee3 Smarter thermostat not only allows you to adjust your home’s temperature remotely, it also senses whether anyone is home or in a specific room in order to save energy. The thermostat intuitively makes temperature changes based on the outside weather, your home’s energy profile and thousands of other data points that can help to improve efficiency. And the remote sensors ensure that every room is exactly the temperature you want it to be.
Ecobee thermostat, $249, Ecobee.com
3. Smarter iKettle
Imagine being able to brew your morning cup of coffee without even getting out of bed. That’s exactly what Smarter’s iKettle does. It allows you to heat water or coffee to any temperature you want, check your water level, brew coffee or tea, keep your coffee warm and shut it off, all from the Smarter app on your phone. With Formula mode, you can also set it to boil as soon it hears a baby crying, which means that the water will be the perfect temperature by the time you get to the kitchen. And, since you can save your settings, everything can all be done with one tap of a button.
Smarter iKettle, $144, Smarter.am
4. Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Few things in life are more irritating than the beep of a smoke alarm. Fortunately Nest Protect allows you to silence that alarm through an app on your phone. It can also send alerts to your phone if you’re away from home, tell you what and where the trouble is and, using two wavelengths of light as sensors, can look for both fast- and slow-moving fires. It also sends you a voice alert if your toast starts to burn so that it doesn’t turn into an actual fire.
Nest Protect, $99, Nest.com
5. August Smart Lock Keyless Home Entry
For most people, losing keys happens far more frequently than losing a phone. Which makes the ability to unlock your front door with your phone a major perk. August Smart Lock allows you to lock or unlock your home remotely, so you never have to worry about whether you remembered your keys. And you can control who has access to your home as well, so you won’t have to rush home to let in the cleaner.
August Smart Lock, $199, August.com
6. Logitech Harmony Home Control
It’s an eternal struggle nowadays to keep track of all your remotes. Fortunately with Logitech Harmony Home Control, you can combine all of them into one. Or, even better, you can simply control everything with your phone. Whether it’s your entertainment system, Xbox, Apple TV, or smart lights and thermostat, Harmony allows you to link up to eight devices, so you never have to worry about finding the right remote for the right one. And the Harmony Hub even allows you to control devices hidden behind cabinet doors.
Logitech Harmony Companion, $149, Logitech.com
7. Stack Smart Lighting
Forget the hassle of hunting for a light switch in the dark, or worse, wasting electricity because you forgot to turn the lights off. Stack’s responsive lighting turns on automatically when you enter a room, and off when you leave. Not only that, it dims or brightens the room depending on the amount of natural light, and determines the light color temperature by the time of day. Plus, it can even learn your routine based on your input and habits.
Stack starter kit, $89, Stacklighting.com
8. Crock-Pot Wi-Fi Enabled WeMo Slow Cooker
Normally with a slow cooker you throw all your ingredients in, set the temperature and then hope for the best. With Crock-Pot’s WeMo-controlled slow cooker, you can adjust your cook time and temperature remotely, and you can turn it to warm or off should you find yourself running late and unable to get home. All of which is controlled through the WeMo app on your phone.
Crock-Pot Smart Wifi Enabled WeMo Slow Cooker, $130, Amazon.com
9. Nubryte All-in-One Smart Home System
With home technology getting more and more sophisticated, managing it all can get a little chaotic. Fortunately there’s the Nubryte smart home management system that links your lighting, security and intercom all into one. You can keep tabs on your energy consumption, check the weather and, thanks to built-in motion detectors and live video alerts, keep tabs on everything from your smartphone. And with touchpoint monitors that have built-in security cameras, you can check in on your home anytime you want via a live video feed.
Nubryte home system, from $199, Nubryte.com
10. Nest Security Camera
Wondering whether it’s the dog or the cat who keeps getting into the trash while you’re away? The Nest Security Cam can answer that question for you thanks to its live 1080p HD video streaming. Linked to an app on your phone, you can get motion and sound alerts that let you know if anything is amiss, and you can even check up on everything at night thanks to a night vision setting. And don’t worry, if it’s the dog who’s getting into the garbage, you can yell at him via the talk and listen feature.
Nest cam, $199, Nest.com
11. Amazon Echo
Play all of your music, listen to audiobooks, check the weather report and even ask about where to get the best Thai food with Echo, Amazon’s intuitive hands-free voice control system. Sort of like Siri for your home, Alexa is a disembodied voice that will see to all of your household needs. You can pair it with most other Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets in your home as well, and because it’s cloud based, it gets smarter every time you use it. With new skills being added to the Alexa app every day, its capabilities are always expanding.
Amazon Echo, $180, Amazon.com
What’s your favorite smart home gadget and why? Share your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn. Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly New Jersey Home Advice Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on The Nest
The Advantages of a Smart House
Smart homes take advantage of today’s most popular automation technology and modern conveniences to give homeowners a new level of control. There is no doubt with the popularity of smart devices today and smart home technologies that easily sync to such hand-held mobile devices that smart home technology is on the rise.
Not only is a Smart House a benefit to a Home Owner as small investments will lead to big savings down the road – think electric bill, heating bill, security systems – but such features are particularly popular among home buyers. Now that Millennials make up the largest share of the home buying market, you may want to consider the importance the technology they’ve grown up on will have on them when it comes time for decision-making.
Here are 5 key Advantages to Smart Homes:
Smart Home technology allows users remote access to systems including heating and cooling systems, intercoms, music and multimedia devices throughout the home. Integrated hard drives allow homeowners to watch video or listen to audio in any room; video intercoms make it easy to communicate with others in the home or visitors at the door. All of these smart home technologies streamline common tasks.
Smart home technology can include advanced security systems with cameras, motion sensors and a link to the local police station or a private security company. Smart homes may also use key cards or fingerprint identification in place of conventional locks, making it harder for someone to break in.
For elderly or disabled residents, a smart home may feature accessibility technologies. Voice-command systems can do things like control lights, lock doors, operate a telephone or use a computer. Home automation allows an individual to set a schedule for automatic tasks like watering the lawn, removing the need to perform these labor-intensive tasks on a regular basis.
Smart homes offer enhanced energy-efficiency. Lights can shut off automatically when no one is in a room, and the thermostat can be set to let the indoor temperature drop during the day before returning it to a more comfortable level just before residents arrive in the evening. All of these automated tasks, along with modern, energy-efficient appliances, combine to save on electricity, water and natural gas, thereby reducing the strain on natural resources.
When it comes time to sell a smart home, sellers will have an abundance of effective selling points. Whichever advantage of a smart home appeals to a given buyer, your Agent can explain the system and discuss how it makes life easier.
TIP: Homes with automated systems have the potential to sell for much more than comparable homes with conventional technologies. Automating a home can be a worthwhile investment in increasing its market value and attracting possible buyers in the future.
Whether you’re thinking about selling your home, or are interested in sprucing up your home, we’re hoping you’ll find all the content being shared this month useful. Join the conversation throughout Staging Month by engaging with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like these delivered straight to your inbox!
Haute Hanukkah Decorating Ideas
Bring modern style and sophistication to your Hanukkah table with a mix of metallics and layered blues.
Create a Custom Table Runner
No sewing machine? No problem! Create a custom table runner with three yards of satin folded into thirds, then top it off with a layer of metallic crafting sheer. The bound edges of the metallic crafting sheer add a graphic edge which gives the layered textiles a finished, tailored look.
Coordinate With Gold Flatware
For an unexpected touch at your Hanukkah dinner table, consider using gold flatware in place of traditional silver. To ensure longevity, strictly use it for special occasions. The more frequently gold is run through the dishwasher, the more likely it is to show its age.
Mix Gold With Wintry Hues for Your Napkin Rings and Place Card Holders
Something you should keep in mind when choosing the proper gold for your Hanukkah decor is to stick with shades of gold that have yellow undertones. Yellow gold mixes well with blue, the most popular color associated with Hanukkah. Brown-gold and orange-gold tones create more of an autumnal look and are trickier to mix with wintry colors.
Go Modern With a Manzanita Branch Menorah
For a fresh take on the classic menorah, consider a manzanita branch candelabrum as your table’s centerpiece. Many manufacturers offer metallic manzanita sculptures that come with eight integrated holes for candles. You can also try the do-it-yourself approach by spray-painting a manzanita branch with metallic spray paint and adding small scraps of wood with hot glue, wire or screws to create a space to accommodate tea lights.
Choose a Classic Winter Flower
Lilies are the ideal flower choice when it comes to winter decorating. To give lilies Hanukkah flair, place them in metallic vases made of classic materials such as mercury glass.
Take It to the Floor
One design element homeowners may skip when decorating their dining and gathering spaces for Hanukkah is the floor. To carry the color scheme down to the floor, consider a solid, textural area rug in blue, gold or silver. During the holidays, swap the year-round rug out for a Hanukkah rug, and instantly the entire room will take on a seasonal vibe. No need to spend a fortune either… outdoor area rugs on discount sites like www.overstock.com will do the trick!
Add Glamour With Metallic Gift Wrapping
Add some glamour to your Hanukkah decor this season with gifts wrapped in metallic paper. A fresh color scheme for gifts is turquoise, royal blue, gold and silver. Goes beyond gift giving… wrap empty boxes for a decorative touch.
Decorate a Hanukkah Tree
As many modern-day families start to combine religions, new holiday traditions begin to take shape. For households where both Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated, consider outfitting a white tree with ornaments in shades of blue, gold and silver.
Have you made your Hanukkah haute? Share your decorating tips. Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
5-Minute Holiday Decorating Ideas
Ideas you can do in less time than it takes to hang stockings by the chimney with care.
Posts of Christmas Past
For a mantel with extra flair, collect family holiday cards from previous years and clothespin them to a long, slim stick suspended between two vases. Put them in chronological order and, if you want, date the pins.
A Pine Idea
Perfectly at home in a modern apartment or an Adirondack-style log cabin, pinecones in decorative bowl, basket or glass votive lend a touch of the season to any decor.
Bundles of Joy
Try hanging something unexpected, like a bunch of fragrant cinnamon sticks.
Even a homemade ornament can pack a decorative punch. Gather a few small sticks from the backyard and trim the ends with sharp scissors. Arrange them into a star shape and tie together with jute or twine.
Fill pretty glassware with sugar and mini marshmallows, then stuff old-fashioned stick candies inside. A holiday display that looks good enough to eat.
Step It Up
Show off some of your most eye-catching ornaments (that might otherwise get lost in your tree). Thread them with different lengths of thin ribbon or string, then tie them to a long, wide grosgrain ribbon wound along the banister.
Feast for the Eyes
Gather a bunch of doilies in white and silver and tape them together (or secure with a dab of glue) to form a one-of-a-kind table runner. For an inexpensive wintry centerpiece, fill glass vases and large compotes of different heights with pinecones. Spray-paint them gold and silver for extra sparkle, or leave them as nature intended.
It’s no secret that poinsettias can seem like nature’s equivalent of the fruitcake. But they can also make a sophisticated statement. Just take them out of their foil-lined pots and sink them into pretty vases. NOTE: Poinsettias are mildly toxic to cats and dogs. While poinsettias are commonly “hyped” as poisonous plants, they rarely are but do watch for syptoms; drooling, licking lips, dermal irritation, vomiting. While medical treatment is rarely necessary, if these clinical signs are severe call your vet.
Set the mood by lighting scented candles and dropping tealights into delicate silver or gold holders or a miniature china house that glows from within.
Illuminate the Table
Top your holiday table with this illuminating piece. A pretty branch or beach wood adjourned with white holiday lights (battery operated pack a cleaner look). Makes white the conversation piece.
Turn old holiday cards into place cards. Cut them into star shapes; punch a hole, tie with a ribbon, and label accordingly.
Skirting the Issue
If each member of your family has, oh, four or five scarves, put some of them to work as a tree skirt. Arrange in a pinwheel fashion around the base of the tree and secure with safety pins.
There’s more to holiday decorating than just the mantel―consider window ledges and empty bookshelves. Place pine boughs in a large vase, hang a handful of ornaments. Fill old jars with pistachio nuts, winterberries, or red peppercorns and nestle a tea light on top. Or go for a seashore motif, assembling an array of starfish draped with a length of plain red string.
Have you holiday dressed your home in less time? What tips do you have to offer? Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
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